Earlier this week the administration enacted a new rule that makes asylum-seekers at the southern border ineligible for asylum if they crossed other countries on their way to the U.S. and did not apply for protection elsewhere.
NBC Connecticut spoke to one woman who lives in Fairfield County and was granted asylum in March.
We are calling her by a different name to respect her privacy.
“I was in shock, I didn’t know how to react,” she said.
She waited three years to hear a judge say she could stay in this country.
“I spent three or four days crying thinking about it—realizing that God was giving me a new opportunity to live.”
The memories of crossing and being detained at the border in 2016 at one point kept her up all night.
“Now I can finally start to live a somewhat normal life again,” she told us on Wednesday.
But it’s still a life borders away from her two children.
“I want to try to stay positive, thinking and telling myself that one day my kids will be here in this place with me.” Eva said. “I do worry because the laws change constantly, if not every day.”
She’s not wrong. On Monday the administration announced a new rule making migrants at the border ineligible for asylum if they crossed through other countries before coming to the US and didn’t apply for asylum or protection in those countries first. The rule went into effect the next day.
“This is effectively going to be barring asylum for Central Americans who are coming to our border and seeking protection, which they are entitled to under our laws,” said Eva’s attorney Keighly Rector.
Rector, who is a staff attorney at the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, says her client likely wouldn’t be here if the rule had been in effect when she came.
“Because she did cross through several of those other countries and it would not have made sense for her, it would have actually been dangerous for her, to stay in them and ask for protection because the group that was persecuting her in her own country very easily could have found her in those other countries as well. But beyond that just the ability of these countries to even be able to process those claims? It just doesn’t exist. The infrastructure is not there.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary issued a statement this week saying the new rule will help reduce the “overwhelming burdens on our domestic system caused by asylum-seekers failing to seek urgent protection in the first available country, economic migrants lacking a legitimate fear of persecution, and the transnational criminal organizations, traffickers and smugglers exploiting our system for profits.”
As Eva waits to hopefully be reunited with her children one day, she finds comfort in her art. It’s a passion she shares with her sons, and that makes them feel close even when they’re miles apart.
Her son sends her sketches, and she makes them come to life on canvas.
Civil rights and advocacy groups like the ACLU have already filed lawsuits challenging the new rule restricting asylum for migrants coming to the southern border.
The DHS said that recent supplemental funding was vital but not enough to confront the border crisis, so until Congress can act, the interim rule will be in place to reduce migration.